With Each passing day it becomes clearer that Israel will soon be facing a two and maybe three front war Hezzbollah and Syria from the north Hamas controlled Gaza from the East and Fatah from the west. Ze’ev Schiff—left-of-center, not a hawk, and considered by many to be Israel’s foremost military analyst says that Israel must eliminate the Hamas threat before that happens since the terror organization is arming many of the other terror groups.
Ze’ev Schiff—left-of-center, not a hawk, and considered by many to be Israel’s foremost military analyst—cites security sources as saying those Qassams that Islamic Jihad has been raining on Gaza-bordering communities during the “ceasefire” with Hamas are in fact supplied by Hamas. Hamas, the sources said, while “maintaining a front of abiding by the ceasefire,” is actually “emerging as the lynchpin of Palestinian terrorist activities against Israel.” That is believed to include providing Islamic Jihad with Russian-made 16-kilometer-range Grad rockets, already used last year to target the town of Ashkelon with its strategic facilities. An analysis last month already warned that Hamas is “improving its rocket capabilities” while “seeking to build anti-tank and anti-aircraft systems that will neutralize Israel’s current ability to easily penetrate Gaza.” The deteriorating situation in the south led Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Tzvika Fogel, formerly chief of staff for Southern Command, to warn on Israel’s Channel 10 that Israel faces two choices: to “continue its ostrich-like stance” until the Gaza terror forces mount a surprise attack, or to launch a full-scale preemptive attack of its own. Meanwhile, shifting the lens to the north, last week the head of Israeli Military Intelligence, Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin, reported to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Syria is “purchasing massive amounts of ground-to-ground and anti-tank missiles from Russia”—a country whose name tends to turn up in these contexts—and that, while “there is a low probability that Syria will initiate a war against Israel,” Syria could launch attacks in the Golan Heights even though it could lead to war. Another report gave an even more ominous picture of an “unprecedented military buildup in Syria,” including the deployment of 300 home-manufactured Scud missiles just north of the Golan Heights, the establishment of new commando units, and a spike in training for urban and guerrilla warfare. A source in IDF Northern Command said that “Syria saw the difficulty the IDF had during the fighting inside the southern Lebanese villages [last summer] and now . . . wants to draw us—in the event of a war—into battles in built-up areas where they think they will have the upper hand.” And over in Lebanon itself, the fallout from last summer’s war is just as negative and the prognosis no better. In his same testimony to the Knesset committee last week, Maj.-Gen. Yadlin noted that up to several hundred Al Qaeda members have arrived in Lebanon with the aim of attacking UNIFIL and other Western targets; and that Hezbollah remains entrenched in southern Lebanon and keeps amassing large quantities of arms from Syria and Iran. Rounding out the circle by returning to the south, Yadlin also said some Al Qaeda operatives have infiltrated Gaza as well, and that Hamas is gaining financial and political strength while its members receive training in Syria and Iran. Overall, “the MI chief stressed that Iran continues to provide funding and weapons to Syria, Hamas, and Hezbollah, and has close military and intelligence coordination with Syria.” Add Russia to the mix and the picture is complete: a Shiite-Sunni-Russian terror-military axis seeking to surround, pressure, and harass Israel and ultimately eradicate it. Tragically, this is happening at a time when Israel has a government hobbled by incompetence, unpopularity, scandals, infighting, and delusory dovishness, and that, apart from stepped-up training for some IDF units, is essentially doing nothing about the growing threats. It does not help that Israel’s U.S. ally keeps obsessively choreographing diplomatic dances with the likes of PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas, the Saudis, and the Arab League with which Israel dutifully complies—achieving nothing except to further project weakness to Israel’s enemies and lull the parts of the Israeli public that are eager to be lulled. As Schiff points out in another analysis, it was the reluctance to enter a two-front war that led Israel to allow Hezbollah’s major military buildup in southern Lebanon in the first place. After Israel pulled out of southern Lebanon in 2000 against the advice of most of the IDF top brass, Prime Minister Ehud Barak and then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon found themselves facing a Palestinian terror onslaught mounted from the West Bank and Gaza and did not want to further complicate matters by doing something about Hezbollah in Lebanon. So Israel, Schiff notes, “never once struck at the convoys transferring the missiles to Lebanon, and never struck even one Hezbollah missile warehouse, or even the short-range rockets near the border.” The end result was that Israel found itself at war on two fronts anyway—when Hamas attacked from Gaza and kidnapped a soldier last June, and Hezbollah followed suit the next month with an attack and kidnapping from Lebanon; and now faces the prospect of a further two-front war against enemies with enhanced capabilities. Hope resides mainly in the interim report later this month of the Winograd Committee, set up to investigate the failures in last summer’s war and also expected to address the whole period of 2000-2006. Sufficiently harsh conclusions against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert could lead him to resign or cause other political ferment leading to new elections. As time goes on and Israel, aside from antiterror policing work in the West Bank, remains almost entirely passive against the growing threats, it does not appear that Olmert’s government has the will or ability to do anything about them, and its continued tenure appears to spell disaster. If there is a chance—apart from a strike on Iran that would alter the region’s strategic balance—for Israel to avoid another two-front entanglement, it lies mainly in regaining its deterrence by making an effective move in Gaza. A hard-enough blow to Hamas and its friends there could make Hezbollah and Syria think twice about starting more trouble in the north. But there may be little time left, and such an outcome requires a functioning government in Jerusalem. It also calls for a Washington able to look past short-term diplomatic concerns and give Israel the backing it needs
By the way if someone out there knows Robert Novak could you translate the above article into a language that he can understand. He obviously does not understand all of the other reports about Hamas, the ones in English.